Understanding the Bible #2–What Am I Looking For?

July 13, 2011 by cloften  
Filed under Family and Parenting

I was not good in high school English.  Before you start evaluating the grammar of that first sentence, let me tell you what I mean.  I was not a good person in English.  I did well, but I was not good.  I didn’t get it.  I didn’t like it and that may or may not have caused me to have a bad attitude.  The story that 17 yr old Cloften would have told you is that all English teachers were out to get him.  I’m not sure what he would have said to why, but I’m sure it would have been creative.

Thirty-nine soon to be thirty-ten year old Cloften would tell you that the 17 yr old was an obnoxious punk who didn’t like the class or the assignments, resented being in there and only wanted to get an A and get out.  I did make good grades, but, primarily because of the attitude, I never really “got it.”  We would read these plays or books and then have to talk about themes and foreshadowing and imagery.  There was some story where a dude woke up as a cockroach and we were supposed to talk about the symbolism.  “Don’t know, don’t care.  Just tell me and I will gladly repeat it back to you on the test.”

I came to believe that I just didn’t know how to do it and that I wasn’t capable.  In college in my one obligatory English class, we were to read books and write a paper on them.  I asked the professor what we were supposed to do.  He said, “read the book, come up with a theory and prove it.”  I thought in response, “What?”  I did not do well in his class.

Then one day, after my 10th or so viewing of Braveheart, it all kind of came to me–the theme of the movie, symbolism, etc.  Now I see it in movies all the time. (I mean not movies like Con Air, but you know movies with a point.)  Now amazingly, I can analyze books as well, and simultaneously discovered that my problem had been attitude (Isn’t it always?).

It’s that same “Can’t Do” attitude that follows most of us to reading and understanding the Bible.  “OK,  I read a passage in the Bible, which means my eyes went over all the words on the page, so what?  What am I supposed to learn? What am I supposed to think? What’s supposed to happen?  Or is nothing supposed to happen–I just do it and say I did it?”

There are two ways of approaching the Bible (Obviously there are more.  We will focus on 2), and I would like to suggest that they are intertwined.  The two ways are literary and spiritual.  The spiritual approach is to pray before you read and ask God to show you something, to teach you, encourage you, change you, etc.  You then read it and expect God to do just that.

However, it can be difficult for that to happen if you really don’t know what you’re reading or how to read it.  This is why even the most spiritual people can get discouraged reading the Bible or well-intentioned people can misinterpret the Bible and/or misapply it.  So let’s talk about what to be looking for as you read it, understanding that what God does in your life is the most important part.

Is it possible to sum up the Bible in 3 sentences? Sure, if they are complex sentences.

The Bible is the story of God who created the universe for his pleasure and created people to be in fellowship with him.  These people rebelled against God, and the God that created them and loves them wants to redeem them and restore fellowship with them.  This is accomplished ultimately through sending his Son, Jesus to die on our behalf.

“Break that down for me please.”

1) The story is about God not us.

2) We were created to be in relationship with him not so that we could do whatever we wanted

3) We have rebelled against the God that created us.

4) God is pursuing a relationship with all people.

5) This is being done now through His Son, Jesus.

So when reading, there are a few questions you can ask yourself.  Writing down the answers can be helpful.

What do I learn about God?

What do I learn about the nature of people?

How is God trying to reconcile people?

How are people who have relationships with God supposed to feel/think/act?

Old Testament: Does any of this point to/foreshadow Jesus?  New Testament: What do I learn about Jesus and his sacrifice for us?

Every passage that you read will deal with one or more of these themes/questions.  Take down notes on anything you notice.  There is no insight too simple.  As with most things, practice will make you better.  When you combine these kinds of insights with God working in your heart, you will notice tremendous spiritual benefits and God changing your life.

Soon you’ll be a regular scholar noticing all sorts of great insights into yourself, God, sin, people, etc.  You’ll be a literary genius.  (Did I mention Braveheart really is the story of Robert the Bruce? Ask me later.)

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